Formaldehyde is back in the news recently with the passing of a brand new federal law setting limits on the amount of formaldehyde emitted by composite wood products. The levels established are equivalent to those adopted by the State of California several years ago in what is commonly know as "CARB."

CARB actually stands for the "California Air Resource Board," the state agency that attempts to monitor just about every molecule of air in the state. They establish regulations governing everything from car exhaust to emissions from televisions. In the wood industry, both the agency and their regulations regarding formaldehyde emissions are referred to as "CARB," and a product that meets their requirements is called "CARB-certified."  

The new federal law is fairly simple in its directive: Establish a national emission level for formaldehyde from composite wood products equal to the state of California.

The new federal law is fairly simple in its directive: Establish a national emission level for formaldehyde from composite wood products equal to the state of California. The law then directs the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and other federal agencies to determine the exact nature for enforcing that emission standard. Among other things, they are to consider, but are not obligated at all, to establish a third party certification program for manufacturers and a chain of custody requirement for all companies selling any composite wood product. (This is not just flooring, but kitchen cabinets and doors and furniture and plywood, etc.)

The exact details of the law and its enforcement will be hammered out over the next few years with the EPA and other agencies, with industry input as well as commentary from other interested parties such as the Sierra Club. This law will have a significant impact on all market levels of the wood products industry. This blog will be updated with news on the federal regulation as the talks progress.

For now, since formaldehyde is such big news, I'm going to devote the next half dozen or so blog posts on the basics of formaldehyde today. I'll look at how it's measured, at CARB and the flooring industry, LEED and the flooring industry, and how to reduce a customer's fear of formaldehyde.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")